Conflicted

I recently received an update from the AzCDL about a proposed piece of legislation. Here’s a quick summary, as quoted from the email notice:

HB 2439 provides for an alternative 4 hour CCW course, dealing only in legal issues, mental conditioning, and judgmental shooting decisions, for qualified individuals who can show proof of prior firearms training, such as:

  • Completion of an NRA pistol course.
  • Completion of pistol related courses at the college level, or at places like Front Sight, Gunsite, etc.
  • Completion of certain law enforcement training.
  • Current military service or an honorable discharge.
  • A competitive rating or ranking in an organized shooting competition.
  • A CCW permit from another jurisdiction that required training or testing to obtain.

I’m a bit conflicted about such a measure. While I’m a huge advocate of CCW and advocate for Vermont/Alaska-style carry (where no permit or state approval is necessary, so long as one is a law-abiding person), measures like this trouble me by setting different standards for people.
I’m a firm believer in training, and encourage everyone who owns a gun to seek training in the safe handling and use of their arms. That said, I believe that such training should be encouraged, but not mandatory. I think that most reasonable people will agree that the use of force, including lethal force, in self-defense is justified if and only if a bad guy poses a clear and present danger of serious bodily injury or death.
However, if the state wishes to require reasonable training prior to issuing CCW permits, so be it. However, such training must meet a clearly-articulated standard. NRA pistol courses are great, but they don’t cover “legal issues, mental conditioning, and judgmental shooting decisions” specific to armed self-defense. Neither does having served in the military — I’ve served in the military as a tank crewman and was routinely armed with a pistol. The pistol training offered by the army was basic at best, mostly covering the mechanical aspects of the gun and how to shoot a basic course of fire. No shoot/no-shoot training, and certainly no other training that would be relevant to a civilian self-defense scenario. Honestly, I was surprised at how little weapons training the army did.
Being a competitive shooter also doesn’t meet those standards. While some aspects of competitive shooting may exceed the state training requirements, competitions rarely cover the legal aspects that the state presently requires. Sure, action shooting can prove useful, but it’s not a self-defense training course.
Again, I’d prefer if training were optional (but strongly encouraged), but so long as the state requires training I think such training should be as uniform as possible. Making exceptions for specific groups of people who, while perhaps trained and skilled in firearm use, haven’t had the same training as other CCW permit holders seems like a bad idea. The only exceptions for the training requirement that I could see would be (a) those with permits from states with substantially similar training requirements and (b) those facing a dire, immediate danger where the time needed to complete a training course would put them in mortal peril. In the latter case, the person should complete the necessary training as soon as practical.
My conflict is between my desire for permitless, Vermont-style carry and the desire that if training is required (as it currently is in Arizona, at least for concealed carry — open carry has no training requirements), that such training be uniform across the entire population of those with permits to carry.

On Mexico

The BBC, like many other new organizations, recently ran an article about the ongoing drug-related violence going on in Mexico.
In the article, a particular quote stood out to me:

Mexico’s gun laws are tight, but in the US it is far easier to get weapons. The Mexican government says lax US gun laws help arm the cartels and fuel the violence.

While US gun laws are far less strict than Mexico, I seriously doubt that the US is responsible for most of the weapons being used by the drug cartels. While I won’t say that US-sourced weapons haven’t been found in Mexico (they clearly have), I’m saying that the bad guys are getting most of their weapons from other sources. The ATF seems to agree.
First off, straw purchasing — where someone buys a gun for a prohibited person, which is illegal — doesn’t scale well. It’s one thing for a gang member to get his girlfriend to buy a gun or two, but it’s a different thing entirely for drug cartels to hire enough straw purchasers in cities all over the country to buy hundreds of thousands of guns and get them over the border without being noticed. It’s made worse when gun stores are routinely out of popular semi-auto guns like AR-15s and AK variants which, the news organizations claim, are the guns being smuggled.
Secondly, why would the cartels risk such high-level detection by straw purchasing from gun shops in the US? US gun dealers are regulated by the ATF, all retail purchasers must undergo FBI background checks, fill out forms, etc. Cars crossing the border are routinely searched for contraband. Seems like a lot of hassle for a marginal gain. It’d be far easier for the cartels to bribe Mexican military members or port authorities to overlook a container or two of smuggled arms than to buy guns — where they’re available — at retail prices in the US.
Thirdly, many of the guns being found in Mexico are machine guns, not their semi-auto lookalikes commonly available in the US. Machine guns are tightly regulated in the US and usually quite expensive. Legal, transferable M16s in the US tend to cost in excess of $12,000 and require both local and federal approval for purchase. Since the registry for privately-owned machine guns was legislatively closed in 1986, the number of legal machine guns has remained constant (or possibly declined slightly, as guns are damaged, destroyed, stolen, etc.). With actual machine guns being so expensive and uncommon, it would be incredibly unwise for the cartels to attempt to smuggle American-owned machine guns into Mexico.
With some skilled machine work, one can convert semi-auto guns into full-auto guns (doing so would be considered making a post-1986 machine gun, and it is generally illegal for private citizens to make or own such a conversion), but again this has problems scaling. Converting a gun or two is plausible, but converting enough guns to arm hundreds of thousands of cartel members? Unlikely, considering the number of machinists and equipment needed to do so.
Fourthly, Mexico has numerous porous borders, whether it’s the large amounts of relatively unpatrolled shoreline or the border with Guatemala. Why would cartels risk detection smuggling arms over the US-Mexico border when they could simply smuggle arms from other sources into the country by land or sea? Bribing a port official to let a container of guns in isn’t that hard, nor is unloading one’s own ships (whether with smaller boats onto a beach somewhere, or into a cove).
Fifthly, the cartels pay a lot more than the Mexican police or military does, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if guns were given or sold to the cartels from police or military armories. Since the US often trades, legally, in arms with Mexican government authorities, this may be why captured guns are being traced back to the US.
Sixthly, there are numerous international arms dealers and nations who would gladly exchange arms for currency. Why risk the wrath of the US government when the cartels could simply buy from a willing foreign government or dealer by the containerload?
Basically, I’m applying Occam’s Razor here: it’s far more simple and plausible that the cartels are getting their guns from the Mexican police and military, from international arms dealers, or from another state (say, Venezuela) than them buying machine guns at vastly inflated prices in the US or straw-purchasing semi-auto guns and then converting them to machine guns.
Unsurprisingly enough, the news media doesn’t consider this (or if they do, they don’t print it), preferring to parrot the same story over and over. The ATF says it isn’t happening. Border Patrol says it isn’t happening. Why, then, does it keep coming up again and again?

Cognitive Dissonance

I saw a car today with a few bumper stickers. Two of them stood out in my mind: an Obama/Biden ’08 sticker and a “????? ????” one.
Now, I don’t really care about other people’s political beliefs, so long as they don’t infringe on my rights, but it seems rather contradictory to have a sticker proclaiming that one would only give up one’s weapons “over [my] dead body” (either literally or metaphorically) and a sticker advocating the election of a candidate who has a well-known history of voting against the rights of gun owners.
Go figure.

Tip of the Day: Cleaning AR-15 Chambers with a Brush and Drill

As an owner of several AR-15 rifles, I’ve found that it’s relatively difficult to clean the chamber from accumulated gunk. Q-tips and patches don’t easily reach all the little nooks and crannies, and the standard chamber brushes are difficult (particularly when new) to fit into the chamber.
An easy, if somewhat l0w-tech solution, is to screw the brush into a length of cleaning rod that you’re not terribly fond of and then chuck the rod into an electric drill (or a brace-and-bit if you really want to go low-tech). First, I apply some cleaning solvent (I’m partial to Break-Free CLP, but anything should do) to the brush. Next, start the drill? clockwise at its lowest speed setting (you do not want high rpms while doing this) and insert the brush into the chamber via the back of the upper receiver as normal.
Voil?! While being driven by the drill, the brush now goes into the chamber with considerable ease. With it now fully in the chamber, the bristles can scrub all the oft-neglected parts like the locking lugs.
I generally keep the brush turning through the insertion, cleaning, and removal phases, as it makes it much easier to move about. While one can remove the non-rotating brush, it’s much more difficult to do so. Running the drill counter-clockwise will cause the brush to unscrew from the rod, which is trivial to fix, or jamming the brush in the chamber and possibly scratching the chamber, which is less trivial.
I’ve been doing this regularly for years with no ill effects — the steel and chrome of the chamber is much harder than the bronze bristles of the brush, and I’ve detected no signs of wear, scratching, or other problems.
Hopefully this helps people clean their ARs more effectively.
Got any more tips and tricks? I’m always interested in more.

Shopping Around

After spending a few days of spring break in Massachusetts doing wedding planning stuff and spending some time with the soon-to-be-in-laws (it’s cold in MA!), I’m back in Tucson.
After driving back from Phoenix (where I flew into and spent a few days with The Girl), I decided to stop at the Sportsmans Warehouse in Tucson and browse. As usual, their ammo/powder/primer supplies were depleted. A good 1/4th of their rifle racks were bare; I’m not sure if this is a result of their fun happy financial times or limited supplies from upstream suppliers. They did, however, have DPMS 30-round AR-15 magazines for a whopping $30 (not including tax) each. These same magazines sell, at retail prices, on DPMS’ own website for $18-$20. Yowzers.
On the same trip, I stopped by Murphy’s Guns and looked at their wares. Business was good, with two customers filling out 4473s for new guns, a few people buying ammo, and a bunch of people perusing the racks. They had several ARs in stock, an AK or two, the absurd-looking “Rolling Thunder” shotgun from Mossberg (photo here, press release here), and the normal selection of pistols, all at reasonable prices. There were a few higher-priced specialty rifles like the FN FS2000 (~$1,400, if I recall correctly) on the shelves as well. They were out of the Federal .223 ammo, but had plenty of PMC, Wolf, and Prvi Partizan .223 left (as well as a bunch of Prvi M193). They recently raised prices on the Prvi M193 from $9.19/20 to $10.xx (I forgot the cents), but they still have several of the old-priced stuff in the same crate, so I picked up 60 rounds of that stuff today. Get it while you can.
Alas, I ended up spending money today that I would rather have saved: one of the UPSes for my? computers had been indicating that its batteries needed to be replaced for some time (its runtime could be measured in tens of seconds rather than tens of minutes) and beeping annoyingly, so I bought some replacement batteries today. So far, so good — the batteries haven’t exploded yet, and they seem to be charging well.
I also took my motor scooter down to the shop, as I’ve been having annoying failures-to-start that would suggest a dead battery, but the battery is fine according to my float charger and my neighbor’s multimeter. Most days it starts just fine, but some days the lights only come on dimly and it won’t turn over (when I press the electric starter, the lights get even dimmer, suggesting that it’s supplying power to the starter motor but not enough to make it work). Occasionally it’ll turn over once, but not fast enough to start. If it does turn over once, something happens where I can’t kick-start it (but jump starting it from another vehicle works fine). If it doesn’t turn over electrically, then it’ll start just fine with the kick-starter. Hopefully the shop can figure it out, and hopefully it’ll be under warranty — money’s tight enough as it is.
As I had mentioned in a previous post, I’ve recently been struck with some inspiration for a lengthy piece of writing (whether it turns out to be a short story or a full-blown novel is left to my muse). I’ve been reading up on tips for turning such inspiration into a coherent story, and have been outlining some of my thoughts, detailing characters, etc. No idea when the first chapter will be done, but I’ll let you know when it is.

Tragic Irony

Over the last day or so, I’ve been having a civil discussion with a gentleman in Germany about violent crime in the US and how — in his opinion — our lack of gun control contributes to said crime.
He went on to say that Germany’s relatively strict gun control makes violent crime much less common than in the US, particularly in the context of school shootings.
Just today, however, there was a tragic school shooting in Germany. In the gentleman’s own words, the shooting “sure takes some wind out of my sail saying those things happen because there are too many guns…”
Dammit. I hate it when things like this happens.

Saturday Shooty Goodness

I’ve spent so much time over the last few years teaching new people the basics of shooting that I’ve not really had time to practice on my own. Alas, I seem to have lost quite a bit, and need to practice more.
Saturday was supposed to be a big group shooty time, but we had 5-6 people either cancel at the last minute (one due to feeling ill, so that’s ok) or simply not show up (turns out that they had partied a bit too hard on Friday night, and were still sleeping it off). As such, it was just Doug, Louis, and I who went to the range.
Doug had been working on a small, programmable microcontroller for a few weeks. His hope would be that when the chip detected a sharp sound (e.g. from a gunshot), it would fire an IR LED with the proper sequence to trigger the shutter on a Nikon camera. We wanted to get some pictures of bolts cycling, as human reaction time is just too slow to get satisfactory pictures. Unfortunately, the microphone was a bit too sensitive, and the wind kept triggering it, so we abandoned that plan and just ended up shooting all day. Oh well.

Doug with his diabolical contraption and Asus Eee PC.

I had a fair bit of .223 piled up (~400 rounds), so we decided to run it through both of my ARs. Both the 16″ and 20″ ARs handled Federal XM193F, Ultramax 55gr, and Prvi Partizan M193 flawlessly. No failures of any sort out of the 300 or so rounds we actually fired.
Doug and I doing...er...science. Ammo-testing science.

It’d been far too long since I was behind a trigger, and I admit that my technique has degraded a bit. While rusty, I was consistently rusty. So long as I maintain that consistency, I think I should be able to improve quickly with some more practice. For practice, I think I should find a specific, standard type of ammo (like Prvi M193 or something), zero for it, and
I'm actually getting some trigger-time!

In addition to the standard paper targets, we also brought my Do-All-Traps spinner target that Sarah had given me for Christmas. According to the box, it’s rated to handle 9mm Luger all the way up to .30-06 Springfield, so long as one uses soft point bullets. Alas, I have no soft points, and factory loaded SPs are considerably pricier than FMJs. Previous tests with various bullet types seemed to indicate that the two “spinner” targets could handle .223 FMJ with no damage, while the “reset” target developed a small dimple, as it didn’t have the same range of motion as the spinners. We figured that so long as we shot the spinner targets with .223 FMJ, it’d be ok.
Unfortunately, this previous testing was done with my medium-powered handloads, and not the hot, mil-spec Federal XM193F stuff. One of us (I think it was Doug) goofed and shot the reset target with one of these speedy little bullets, resulting in a grape-diameter dent in the steel and there’s a substantial bulge on the back of the target. Wowzers, this is some hot stuff. A few shots later to the spinners resulted in one of the spinners breaking in half and sending a semi-circular chunk spinning a few feet downrange.



Evidently when the manual says “No FMJ”, they mean it. It applies double to mil-spec FMJ. Who would have thought? Oh well. Anyone in Tucson have a welder? It’d be nice to re-weld the target and put some heavier steel plate on there so I can shoot FMJ at it without a problem.
As .223 is expensive, we also did some rotations on the suppressed 10/22. Alas, the spinner target is too heavy and .22 won’t flip them up. Even so, the targets go “ping” and bounce around, which is fun. When we went downrange later, there were a bunch of flattened out lead disks around the spinner — evidently the .22s flatten out almost completely and just lie around the target. We weren’t able to find any .223 fragments, not even pieces of the jacket.



As fun as the ARs are, I think I’m going to need to spend a bit more time behind the 10/22 to get back in practice. Inexpensive ammo is wonderful, and .223 is anything but inexpensive.
Between school, trying to get in shape (both in general and for the wedding), and work, I don’t have all that much time for range trips, but I see about making some time, possibly over the summer. Maybe get involved with some regularly-scheduled things like silhouette or action-shooting matches. We’ll see.

Surreal

I went to the local gun shop (Murphy’s Guns & Gunsmithing at Ft. Lowell & Country Club in Tucson) this afternoon with a few friends. We were mostly looking at getting a few boxes of ammo (mostly .223), and also to look at all the shiny stuff.
After seeing most gun shops being absurdly busy and having bare shelves, I was pleasantly surprised to see this shop with only modest customer traffic (granted, it was a Friday afternoon), a good selection of firearms (including four AR-15s and several AK variants), and a wide selection of ammo at reasonable prices.
The ARs on the shelves included at least one Bushmaster and one S&W, both priced around $900-$1,000 (which seems quite reasonable for those specific models, almost pre-frenzy prices). Prvi Partizan M193 5.56mm ammo was $9.19/20, though some of the boxes in the crate were labled at $10 (it looks like they just got some new boxes in and put the higher price on the new stuff without relabeling the old stuff). Federal XM193F (I’ve never seen the “F” designation before, but it looks good) was available for $9.99/20. I picked up three boxes of the Federal and two boxes of the Prvi (I have one at home, making it an even 60 rounds, and my friend Louis bought three boxes of Prvi for me as well — thanks Louis).
While I can’t exactly call the ammo prices “cheap”, they were not unreasonable given today’s market. Even better, they had a bunch of the ammo (most online vendors are sold out, and the shelves at the local big-box sporting goods stores are bare) and I could support a local small business.
I felt like I was in some kind of fantasy land, what with reasonably-priced, available guns and ammo.
Someone pinch me.

Good Lawyers

It’s regularly advised on various gun-related forums that gun owners should have the contact number of a good gunny-friendly lawyer to call in the unlikely and undesireable event that one is needed. Better safe than sorry, right?
Does anyone have any recommendations for such lawyers in the Tucson and Chandler areas? Ideally, they’d have some number one could call day or night in the event that they’re needed. I tend to avoid lawyers and other legal-related stuff like the plague.
That said, I don’t have any particularly need for a lawyer (I’m not in any sort of legal trouble), but I’d like to have one on call just the same. Preferably one that’s not shady.